Boeing's grounded 737 MAX could receive regulatory approval to resume flying in November and enter service by the end of the year, Europe's chief aviation safety regulator has said.
"For the first time in a year and a half I can say there's an end in sight to work on the MAX," European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive director Patrick Ky said.
EASA expects to lift its technical ban "not long" after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), probably in November, but national operational clearances needed for individual airlines to resume flying in Europe could take longer, he said.
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"We are looking at November," he said when asked when the technical ban would be lifted. China is expected to take longer to give its own approval, he said, without elaborating.
Cologne-based EASA, which regulates air safety in 32 mainly European Union countries, has locked horns with the FAA and Boeing over the scope of an international review into 737 MAX systems following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.
All but one of the differences have been resolved, he said, with EASA, supported by some unions, calling for pilots to be able to manually cut power to a "stick shaker" alarm system suspected of distracting Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crew.
The main focus of the review has surrounded black-box evidence that bad data from a single faulty flight-angle sensor triggered a cockpit software system that repeatedly pointed the aircraft's nose down and overwhelmed the crew on both flights.
Boeing has said that inputs from both "angle of attack" sensors on the MAX will be used in the modified aircraft, instead of just one in the past, but EASA has called for a third "synthetic" sensor to provide independently computed data.
Ky said that Boeing has agreed to install the computerised third-sensor system on the next version of the plane, the 230-seat 737 MAX 10, followed by retrofits on the rest of the fleet later.
Boeing Next Development
Turning to Boeing's next development, Ky said that EASA will examine the 400-seat 777X development "much more closely" than it would have done if the MAX grounding had not happened and pay particularly close attention to flight control systems.
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